Maurizio Cattelan Creates Solid Gold Toilet for the Guggenheim

Yes, it's fully functional.

Maurizio Cattelan, America (2016).
Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Mischief may be Maurizio Cattelan‘s specialty, but don’t be mistaken: The 18-karat-gold toilet he’s installing at the Guggenheim Museum is real.

The Italian artist’s sculpture will dwell in one of the museum’s public restrooms, replacing a standard porcelain model which currently occupies the space. The work, which functions as a participatory project, encourages museum visitors to use the solid gold readymade when nature calls.

The artist named it America, a title which succeeds at articulating his loaded intentions. In a press release, the Guggenheim identifies Cattelan’s reaction to the “excesses of the art market” (of which Cattelan himself benefits as one of the most expensive living artists), and notes that the toilet functions as a facetious jab towards the one percent who can afford such ostentatious works.

Formally, Cattelan’s gold toilet is an obvious reference to Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 Fountain. The Guggenheim addresses this affinity, cheekily stating that the “installation may be understood as countering the artistic transgression of Fountain by restoring the utility of their shared subject.”

Maurizio Cattelan.<br>Photo: Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

Maurizio Cattelan.
Photo: Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

How the general audience will respond to the piece, on the other hand, is anybody’s guess. “It’s not my job to tell people what a work means,” Cattelan said in an interview with the New York Times“but I think people might see meaning in this piece.”

America, which will be on view (and in-use) starting May 4, marks the artist’s first serious artwork since his retrospective at the museum in 2012. A year before, Cattelan claimed to have retired from the art world, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been active since, especially through his involvement with Toiletpaper magazine, which he co-founded with Pierpaolo Ferrari.

In 2014, Cattelan worked on a documentary about himself; and he is creating an “irreverent” storm for Frieze New York this spring.

“Maurizio Cattelan: America” will be on view starting Wednesday, May 4.

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